By John Ikani
Mali’s military-appointed prime minister on Saturday lashed out at France as well as the United Nations in a grievance-filled address over his nation’s deteriorating security while praising the “exemplary” cooperation with Russia.
Addressing the 77th session of the UN General Assembly on Saturday, Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga slammed what he called France’s “unilateral decision” to relocate its remaining troops to neighbouring Niger amid deteriorating relations with Mali’s two-time coup leader Assimi Goita.
While it was Goita and his allies who overthrew a democratically elected president by military force two years ago, Mali’s prime minister repeatedly referred to a “French junta” throughout his 30-minute speech.
French leaders “have disowned universal moral values and betrayed the rich history of the Lumieres philosophers and turned themselves into a junta in the service of obscurantism,” he told the UN General Assembly.
Maiga denounced the former colonial power for “neocolonialist, condescending, paternalist and vengeful policies” such as sanctions on the junta in Mali, which has seen two coups since 2020.
He instead saluted “the exemplary and fruitful cooperation between Mali and Russia,” whose Wagner Group security firm has been hired by the junta in Bamako despite widespread concerns in the West.
Maiga also denounced UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who in a recent interview rejected the junta’s claims that 46 Ivorian soldiers detained in Mali were mercenaries.
France intervened militarily in Mali in 2013, leading an effort to remove armed groups from the control of the northern Malian towns they had overtaken. Over the past nine years, Paris had continued its presence in a bid to stabilise the country amid repeated attacks by armed groups.
The French departure in August raised new concerns about whether those fighters will regain territory with security responsibilities now falling to the Malian military and UN peacekeepers.
The Wagner Group, a Russian network providing fighters for hire, has been allowed to operate in Mali despite evidence collected by the UN pointing to their involvement in mass summary executions, arbitrary detentions, torture, and forced disappearances in the Central African Republic.
Maiga also attacked the leaders of several West African nations that have put pressure on the junta.
He charged that Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum was not actually from Niger and accused Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara of “keeping power only for himself and his clan” by changing the constitution to have a third term.